Most of us have heard of traditional talk therapy. Typically, it conjures up images of lying on a couch while discussing our problems with a therapist, who then provides insight and feedback about our feelings. While talk therapy may be useful for some clients in recovery, those with traumatic past experiences or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may find it challenging to open up to a therapist. Often, this is because reliving the traumatic experience is too painful for them.
Two other types of therapy worth considering for clients struggling with traumatic memories include Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Brainspotting. Both EMDR and Brainspotting are similar to talk therapy because they both require you to speak to a therapist about traumatic memories. However, EMDR and Brainspotting incorporate the “mind-body connection” to help you process your traumatic memories.
By combining these connections into the therapy, clients can discuss their feelings while simultaneously feeling calm and safe. When clients with trauma and PTSD feel safe, they find opening up about past experiences to be less painful. Before discussing each therapy, let’s clarify what we mean by the “mind-body connection.”
What is the Mind-Body Connection?
Alternatively known as the brain-body connection, the mind-body connection is the idea that our emotions, including traumatic experiences, are held in the physical body. For example, did you know that even faking a smile can help to alleviate negative feelings? The brain associates the muscle movements of a smile with positive emotions. In other words, feeling happy makes you smile, and smiling can make you feel happy!
Similarly, traumatic experiences and symptoms of PTSD create connections between the mind and the body. A client with a history of trauma often reacts in their bodily movements when thinking about past events. Additionally, a client might notice that specific physical movements trigger them to experience feelings of trauma. Both EMDR and Brainspotting incorporate the mind-body connection to treat clients dealing with negative emotions from traumatic experiences. Let’s look at a brief overview of each to understand the similarities and differences.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, was developed in 1989 by Francine Shapiro. During an EMDR session, a therapist guides a client through repetitive steps to help desensitize the client to their negative emotions. The client is asked to discuss and to focus on the traumatic events and emotions while experiencing bilateral stimulation, or rhythmic movements between the left and right side of the body.
Examples of bilateral stimulation include eye movement from left to right, body tapping from one side of the body to the other, or auditory input from the left and right ears. Bilateral stimulation creates a calming and relaxing effect on the body and mind. As the client experiences the positive, calming effect of bilateral stimulation, they can gradually begin to lessen the negative feelings associated with a traumatic event.
EMDR works on the premise that healing from trauma is similar to healing from physical pain. Think of EMDR like stretching after a workout: the muscles recover from the stress of exercise by stretching and allowing the body to relax. EMDR allows the mind to heal by processing the feelings associated with trauma while the body is calm and relaxed. When the brain feels safe enough to explore traumatic feelings, it can begin to heal. The client can also experience their emotions in a non-threatening environment with the guidance of a therapist.
Like EMDR, Brainspotting also treats trauma using the mind-body connection. Developed in 2003 by David Grand, brainspotting begins with the therapist identifying a client’s “brainspot.” A “brainspot” is a spot in the client’s visual field that, when focusing the eye in this area, causes the client to experience the negative feelings associated with a traumatic event.
To find the brainspot, the therapist waves a pen-shaped object in a specific pattern in front of the client’s eyes. Once the client’s eyes are focused on the brainspot position, they will have a reflexive response occurring outside of the client’s conscious awareness. Examples of reflexive responses can be eye twitches, swallowing, yawning, coughing, or shifting the body. Most commonly, the unconscious response will be in the form of facial expressions. The therapist looks for these responses while following the client’s eye movements.
Once a brainspot is found, the therapist will hold this eye position as the client focuses on and discusses the traumatic experience. Brainspotting, like EMDR, allows the client to experience negative emotions in a safe environment with a therapist’s guidance. Brainspotting does not involve as much repetition as EMDR. However, some clients prefer the rigid structure of EMDR. Both therapies have been shown to alleviate symptoms of trauma and offer an alternative to traditional talk therapy.
If you’ve suffered trauma or PTSD secondary to your addiction, recovery is not out of reach. Every day, people find alternatives to traditional recovery strategies which work for their specific psychological profile. At Camelback Recovery, you’ll find a sober living community ready to provide you with the tools you’ll need on the journey to sobriety. If you’re ready to get sober, it’s time to lean on the experience and strength of others who have come before you. Through a holistic recovery program, you can overcome the trauma of your past – you just need the time to do so. At Camelback Recovery, you’ll find the community you’re looking for and the experienced guidance you need. Give us a call at (602) 466-9880. Getting sober isn’t easy, but it can be an exciting period of your life, filled with transformational experiences and incredible growth.